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Pakistani protesters burn a representation of the US flag during a rally to condemn US drone attacks in Pakistani territory on Friday. Khalid Tanveer/AP/Press Association Images

US missiles kill 25 people 'including women and children' in Pakistan

The attack, aimed at targeting Taliban militants, is unlikely to improve already strained and deteriorating relations between Washington and Islamabad.

US DRONES FIRED a volley of missiles into a militant-held Pakistani region close to the Afghan border on Friday, killing 25 people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strike came a day after Pakistan’s army chief denounced such attacks, and could further sour deteriorating relations between Washington and Islamabad.

Ten missiles hit a house in Spinwam village in North Waziristan, a region home to Taliban militants targeting American and NATO troops just across the border in Afghanistan, as well as international Al Qaeda terrorists, three intelligence officials said.

Three children and two women were believed to be among the dead, they said although this could not be independently confirmed.

America has been regularly firing missiles from unmanned drone aircraft into the border region for the past two-and-a-half years but does not formally acknowledge the CIA-run program.

US officials rarely comment on specific strikes but have said in general terms that they accurately hit militants. The attacks have long been a source of tension between the two allies.

The missiles are the only way Washington can directly hit Afghan Taliban factions hiding in Pakistan, something it says is essential to success in Afghanistan. That dilemma has become more acute given that the US wants to begin withdrawing troops in the summer.

Pakistan’s army and political leadership has always publicly condemned the missile attacks, but is believed to have sanctioned them privately. That policy allows them to be insulated from some of the anti-American sentiment that runs strong in the country.

But ties have sunk to new lows this year after an American CIA contractor in January shot and killed two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him. A March missile strike that allegedly killed dozens of innocent tribesmen also angered Pakistani leaders.

Pakistani officials say they now want America to limit the use of the strikes and give them more information about them.

Persistent tensions over Pakistan’s alleged ties to Afghan Taliban factions such the Haqqani network, based in North Waziristan, have also had an airing.

Islamabad denies supporting the group, but many analysts and US officials suspect Islamabad may be trying to maintain its links to the Haqqanis so that it can use them as a means of retaining influence in Afghanistan — and keeping a bulwark against arch rival India — after the Americans leave.

- AP

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